A Passion for Problem-Solving

Biophysics meets biomedical sciences
By Matt Windsor • Photo by Steve Wood
Photo of Lamario Williams; headline: A Passion for Problem-Solving
Biophysics meets biomedical sciences
By Matt Windsor • Photo by Steve Wood
In four years at UAB, Lamario Williams (pictured above) has tackled quite a few tough questions. The St. Louis-born, Huntsville-raised senior has researched laser development in the Department of Physics, worked on genetic analysis of cardiac cells at Mount Sinai in New York City, and studied metabolic changes accompanying diabetes and heart failure in UAB’s Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology. He even journeyed to Nepal and rural Mexico to learn how doctors in community hospitals can heal patients without expensive diagnostic tools.
Williams is a member of the UAB Honors College Science and Technology Honors Program, double-majoring in biomedical sciences in the School of Health Professions and biophysics in the College of Arts and Sciences, with minors in math and chemistry. He is second author on a publication in the journal Optical Materials Express, and presented his research at the Quadrennial Physics Congress in San Francisco and Experimental Biology convention in San Diego in 2016. Williams also was one of 12 students nationwide selected for a 2016 Scholarship of Excellence award from the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions.
Williams describes how he amassed that research experience in a short time—and how he plans to use it:

How did you get involved in research?
Williams: Being part of the SciTech Honors Program was instrumental. It’s such a diverse group, and [SciTech director] Diane Tucker, Ph.D., promotes an interdisciplinary view, giving us exposure to researchers from biology and chemistry to business and the arts. SciTech has taught me about the innovative process I can’t get enough of.
In the physics department, I learned critical thinking skills I need for research. I never had physics in high school, but the faculty don’t pull any punches. I have so much praise for them pushing me to learn and understand the material.

Why did you choose to major in biomedical sciences as well?
Williams: The program prepares us for a career in any of the health professions: We have pre-med, pre-physician assistant, pre-dentistry students and more. The faculty challenge us to think like a physician—understanding anatomy and physiology and how they apply to real-world problems.

You’ve also shadowed physicians in low-resource areas on medical mission trips to Mexico and Nepal. What did those trips teach you?
Williams: In countries with less money dedicated to health care, physicians become proficient in diagnosing and treating patients for the lowest cost possible. The research is often guided not by which therapies will sell the best, but by which will have the largest impact on treating disease.

What are your career plans?
Williams: I plan to attend a medical-scientist training program to earn both an M.D. and a Ph.D. In my research now, I’m looking at diabetic cardiomyopathy in the lab of Adam Wende, Ph.D. I’ve learned plenty from him about asking relevant questions that I can create a clear way to answer. Being surrounded by so much groundbreaking research at UAB has made me want to not just practice medicine but to advance it. I aspire to look at the intersections between heart disease, nutrition, and biophysics.
My family has been affected greatly by heart disease, which piqued my interest in interventional cardiology. I’ve seen them conquer the disease, and I strive to be a part of the jubilation that comes with health.

What is your advice for other students interested in research?
Williams: Find a topic you are passionate about. The great thing about UAB is that you can easily find a lab doing something that interests you. Research is difficult, but don’t let one unfavorable experience taint your whole view of research. There are several different types of questions you can answer in different ways.

• Learn more about the opportunities for learning and research in the UAB Honors College, School of Health Professions, and College of Arts and Sciences.

Published March 2017